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A Year After the Chris Pronger Trade

Perhaps the question being asked (see excerpt) is a tad premature. That being said, it needs to be asked eventually, so why not now with the Philadelphia Flyers in an 0-2 hole against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final, the very trophy general manager Paul Holmgren had his eyes on when he opted to send forward Joffrey Lupul, top-end defensive prospect Luca Sbisa, and two first-round draft picks to the Anaheim Ducks for the rugged Hart Memorial Trophy-winning rearguard.

For the sake of completeness, let me ask it again, more drawn out this time, in case the implications weren't so obvious the last time around: if the Flyers fail to win the Cup with Pronger on board, will giving up a potential number-one defenseman in Sbisa, a top-six forward in Lupul, and two draft picks (the first of which ended up being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, resulting in forward Kyle Palmieri being drafted by the Ducks) be worth it?

From purely a financial standpoint, many might argue that the trade has already paid sufficient dividends, considering the fact that the Flyers have played at least 10 more home games this season, having just made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. However, from purely a hockey standpoint, assuming the Flyers revert to their team-on-the-playoff-bubble status next year, making the championship round this year and failing to win might just end up a colossal disaster.

It took the Flyers 13 years to get back here after getting swept by the Detroit Red Wings in 1997. Who's to say it won't take even longer the next time around, once Pronger has long since retired and Sbisa is a Hart Trophy-candidate in his own right (not likely, but still…)?

When the season began, everyone believed that the Flyers had a legitimate chance at coming out of the East in the playoffs. No one could have predicted that they would have accomplished the feat the way that they did, making the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, in a shootout no less, upsetting the New Jersey Devils in the first round, coming back from an 0-3 deficit against the Boston Bruins, and then beating the Montreal Canadiens with home-ice advantage as a seventh seed. It all just lends itself to a storybook ending that may never come.

The Flyers may become a contender next year, but they may not. Whatever they end up doing to address their goaltending situation in the off-season (keeping Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, for one option), it may not be enough and the same questions will present themselves once again.

Was it worth it? Even if they find a way to win it all this year, unless Pronger helps to make the Flyers into a perennial contender, it won't be.